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Exhibition shows how a modern master let nature nurture his art

By Lin Qi | China Daily Global | Updated: 2020-01-14 09:14

Late artist Li Xiongcai, then 89, at his home in Guangzhou, in 1999.[Photo provided to China Daily]

The exhibition will place the spotlight on the sketches Li made at the places he visited, showing his techniques and shrewd observations.

Two of Li's most famous paintings are A Picture of Flood Prevention Works in Wuhan, a copy of which is on show, and Construction of Sanmenxia Dam, which is also on display.

Viewers can picture how Li recreated the bustling scenes of two major projects of New China in his studio by referring to the many preliminary drawings he made. These, too, are also on show.

In these ink sketches Li portrays workers carrying heavy loads, trucks busily transporting materials and villagers reinforcing breakwaters. With technical refinement, he celebrated the will, wisdom and energy of ordinary people confronting natural barriers.

"Li's brushwork shows a desire to keep pace with the times," says An Yuanyuan, deputy director of the National Art Museum of China, where A Picture of Flood Prevention Works in Wuhan is housed.

"More importantly, he portrayed those working people with great compassion," she adds.

The exhibition traces Li's accumulated sketching skills and keen sense of observation to his three years at the Tokyo Fine Arts School (which later became the Tokyo University of the Arts) in the 1930s.

Xue Liang, the exhibition's curator, says the years in Japan widened Li's vision, and he was introduced to the technical precision of Western oil painting and developed an interest in natural history.

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